116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Hawkeye Wrestling Club grows stronger
Iowa City has been a longtime training destination for many wrestlers.
The Hawkeye Wrestling Club has played an integral role, providing competitors a chance to pursue their international wrestling goals from the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex inside the University of Iowa's Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The club has had a bit of a resurgence and will look to increase its success at the U.S. World Team Trials this weekend at Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis.
Tom Brands returned to lead the Iowa program and focused on rebuilding the club that was established in 1973 and was at its highest level during the 1980s and 1990s. Brands and his brother, Terry Brands, who is the Hawkeyes' associate head coach, are advisers.
'At the end of the 2008 season, Tom recognized the next step to him being back was to get the club back to where it was when he wrestled or back where he knew it needed to be in order to continue to push both the collegiate and post-collegiate program forward,” HWC Advisor and Director of Wrestling Operations for Iowa Luke Eustice said. 'It has taken the better part of five or six years to get to a point where we are comfortable (or) where we feel good about the direction and growth and the ability to help those guys that want to continue to compete,”
The infusion of talent includes accomplished wrestlers like Brent Metcalf, Phil Keddy, Matt McDonough, former Penn All-American Micah Burak, Tony Ramos and Derek St. John. They are serving as the new foundation.
'I think when my class graduated the club was kind of non-existent,” said Keddy, a member of the 2010 class who noted Doug Schwab and Mike Zadick were members of the coaching staff when they competed and qualified for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. 'Having it around and the awareness of incoming kids, knowing that is an option to continue to train afterward and the next step, the next goal after college is very beneficial and a great opportunity.
'It's definitely grown and it's going to continue to get better, especially if we do our job and start winning World medals and stuff like that.”
The organization and wrestlers have an interdependent relationship that exists primarily to outside assistance. The HWC has seen a swell of support in recent years, coming out for special events including the annual polar plunge. The donations make it possible to be a full-time athlete, helping cover costs for training, travel, equipment and competition.
'Those are the people who make the club run,” Eustice said. 'Terry (Brands) likes to say we're stewards of it. We facilitate all this other stuff happening, but we can't do something without the people, understanding what we're doing and believing in it and then donating because of it.”
Keddy said the sponsorship from fans is huge. The sixth-ranked wrestler at 86 kilograms by USA Wrestling also mentioned the importance of quality wrestlers, including Metcalf, top-ranked at 65 kilograms, fourth-ranked McDonough at 61 kg, No. 7 Burak (97 kg). The adage 'iron sharpens iron” is a component in the HWC's success.
'It takes a good group of guys that you have to work out with and it takes good leadership,” Keddy said. 'Tom and Terry are great leaders and are fanatical guys about doing whatever it takes to get better.”
The health and stability of the HWC depends on the wrestlers, They have to perform to keep the program moving forward. Ramos will make his first freestyle event after capping his college career with the 133-pound NCAA title in March. He realizes his results benefit the club.
'I want to go and be the best 57-kilogram wrestler in the world and not just in America,” Ramos said. 'I'm hoping to go out and win a World Championship this year and not wait around. That's going to make people want to train here even more.”
Ramos had options after his eligibility ended. Reportedly, he could have embarked on a mixed martial arts or coaching career. Results of Metcalf and Keddy and being able to work with the Brands Brothers influenced his decision to continue his wrestling endeavors.
'I wanted to be with the best coaches,” Ramos said. 'Tom and Terry are the best freestyle and folkstyle coaches.”
Current Hawkeyes Thomas Gilman and Sammy Brooks have made a contribution, qualifying for last year's FILA Junior World Team. Gilman retained his spot at 55 kg, sweeping Nathan Tomasello (8-4, 3-2) on Friday.
'I knew I could get to his legs. I didn't do it much that second match, but I was moving him good, so I wasn't really worried about it,” Gilman said in a news release. 'I got to his legs and ended up in a stalemate. I was a little anxious after that, but I knew if I just kept moving him something would open up. I caught him on his heels and finished on a double-leg.”
Metcalf has been the poster boy for the HWC. He has thrived under the new freestyle rules, defending his U.S. World Team spot in a best-of-3 series against the 65-kg challenge tournament champions. Metcalf is looking to make his third World team since 2010, sitting atop the national rankings after a U.S. Open championship and a win over the previous top-ranked wrestler in the world at in an exhibition dual in New York.
Metcalf's results provide a perfect vehicle to deliver the program's message to supporters and perspective wrestlers.
'If he wasn't doing those things it wouldn't be a story to report,” Eustice said. 'We wouldn't have that without him, We wouldn't have that without Phil Keddy, getting himself to a position he can contend for a World team spot.
'Those guys having success help us communicate there is a need for these guys and these is a need for funding and we need that help.”
Wrestlers might be mindful of their role, carrying on the tradition and creating more momentum for the club. They are focused on their individual goals. Keddy said he feels good and is ready to wrestle hard, giving the HWC a bigger spotlight by obtaining his personal goals.
'I would like to represent it the best way I can, giving the fans and club the main recognition by winning medals and making the World team this weekend. That is what helps the club.”
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